105th Annual May Procession and Celebration of the Feast of Bl. Edmund

03 May 2015

Address for the 105th Annual May Procession and Celebration of the
Feast of Bl. Edmund Rice Waverley College, 3rd May 2015

From the cross he saw his mother and his mate John standing near and so he said to his Mum, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ And to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (Jn 19:26-27) These were amongst Jesus’ last words and so they are especially precious words: because they indicate his intimacy and care for his family and friends, even as he hung there tortured and dying; because in his solicitude not just for them but for the future Church He gave us Mary to be our Mother too; and because in doing so, He sealed our brotherhood to Him as sons of the same Mother, and so our brotherhood with each other also.

Yet on first hearing, Jesus calling Mary ‘Woman’ sounds rather curt. I suspect if most of you boys called you Mum ‘Woman’ you’d get a clip over the ear. So what is going on here? The reference is to Eve. Adam’s wife Eve was called ‘the Wo-man’ because she came from the Man and was Mother of All the Living. By calling Mary ‘the Woman’, Jesus is nominating her as the New Eve, the new Mother of all the living.

For more than a century Waverley College has honoured this New Eve, Mary, with its May procession, as well as commemorating her devotee, Blessed Edmund Rice. Because Mary was the Mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God, she was – and is – the Mother of God. Like the first Eve she was conceived sinless and without the damage sin causes. Yet life was no bed of roses for her. There confusion and fear at her calling and shame associated with her pregnancy. There was the poverty of the circumstances of her labour and giving birth. There was old man Simeon telling her in the Temple that her boy’s doom would break her heart. There was her narrow escape with the boy from bloodthirsty Herod and a flight into Egypt as a refugee. There was the time when, as a youth, her Son was lost and found in the Temple, a time she described as ‘agony’. There was the sorrow of losing Jesus more permanently from her life as He embraced His public ministry. There was her helplessness as she watched the gathering gloom of opposition to Him. And there were those terrible days, when she learnt of His arrest and trial, when she witnessed His Via Dolorosa with the cross, His torture and execution; when she received His lifeless body into her arms and had to consign it to the tomb. No-one could pretend Our Lady had it easy!

There’s a lesson here for us. Though Christian life promises Easter it comes via Good Friday. The world tells us that with enough money, law, education and technology there’s a quick fix for everything. But some problems are more intractable. If even for the Virgin there were times of darkness, there will surely be for us. But not all is darkness. At the Annunciation and Nativity and Pentecost and the Assumption and the Coronation this woman was enveloped in divine light. In the luminous mysteries we have prayed together, she saw her divine Son instituting the sacraments, preaching the Word, revealing His transfigured glory, shining light into the darkest places and giving all humanity hope. There was much for her to cherish and ponder in her heart.

The story of Mary invites us to have sympathy and solidarity with those who experience darkness of one kind or another; but also to be ready to offer them reasons to hope, luminous mysteries. We must be especially mindful of those who are suffering and dying and stand by them in compassion and prayer as the Sorrowful Mother and Beloved disciple did. At present, for instance, we think of the people of Nepal, suffering the terrible effects of the earthquakes; of the persecution of Christians of the Middle East and the hundreds of thousands now driven into exile; of the families grieving their sons executed in Indonesia. If Christ is given to the Church as light, the Church is given to the world as light also; if Mary is giving to the Church as Mother, the Church is given to the world to be likewise. If we assist those suffering natural disasters such as in Nepal; if we work to prevent such made-made catastrophes such as in Syria and Iraq; if we campaign against persecution and execution, building bridges to other cultures and individuals: then we are being Christ and His Blessed Mother to our world, and we are fair-square in the line of Edmund Rice.

My thanks to Mr Ray Paxton, Headmaster of Waverley College, and Mr Sam Hardjono, Chairman of the Waverley College Board, for the opportunity to join you for the 105th Annual May Procession for Our Lady and Celebration of Blessed Edmund Rice. My father took part in this procession when he was a boy at this College and I think this is an excellent tradition of which you should all be very proud. I acknowledge with gratitude the Christian Brothers, the College Board and the staff; Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, your Federal Member, and Hon. Bruce Nottley-Smith, your State Member of Parliament; Councillor Sally Betts, the Mayor of Waverley; my several brother priests and friars; and the other distinguished guests.

Pray, dear friends, with Mary when you can. Commit to praying the Angelus attentively and whole-heartedly each day, to praying the Rosary each week, the Hail Mary or Memorare when you can. Pray for peace, good government, justice and mercy. Pray for your friends, your family, yourselves, especially that you may know God’s will for you and do it, that you may be men of high ideals and integrity, men of character and compassion. Thanks be to God for Waverley College! God bless you all!